Damage Joy by B-Floor Theatre
Courtesy of B-Floor Theatre

Weekly Southeast Asia Radar: Eka Kurniawan turns down art award; the grandfather of Mandalay’s modern art

ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar features articles and posts about arts and culture in Southeast Asia, drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. In the weekly Southeast Asia Radar, we publish a round-up of content that have been scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms.

Here is this week’s Southeast Asia Radar:


Eka Kurniawan attends the launch of his book, ‘O’, in Jakarta on March 13, 2016. Photo: The Jakarta Post/Wienda Parwitasari


Eka Kurniawan turns down award from Education and Culture Ministry
Jakarta Post

Renowned Indonesian writer Eka Kurniawan revealed that he had turned down an award from the Education and Culture Ministry.

Established in 2012, the Cultural Awards and Traditional Art Maestro Awards will be given to 59 recipients from eight categories this year. Among the recipients are late comedian Djudjuk Srimulat, composer Purwa Tjaraka, singer Rose Pandanwangi and artist Amrus Nastalsya.

Eka wrote in a Facebook post: “I was contacted around two months ago by a staff member from the Education and Culture Ministry and was informed that I would be receiving the 2019 Cultural Award for the Creator, Pioneer and Innovator category.”

[Read more…]


Drag queen Becca D’Bus in suitably riotous attire at Riot!, the monthly drag queen show she hosts in Singapore. Photo via South China Morning Post
Singapore’s most outspoken drag queen Becca D’Bus on fashion that turns heads and calling things as they are
South China Morning Post

In sunny, strait-laced Singapore, Becca D’Bus stands out. The plus-size, 1.85 metre tall drag queen is known for her irrepressible fashion choices, even when she is off duty, and turns heads in muumuus or maxi dresses. She is also outspoken about issues that matter to the LGBTQ community.

A supporter of Pink Dot, the annual event in Singapore for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population, d’Bus – the stage name of 41-year-old Eugene Tan – typically shows up in avant garde make-up and brightly coloured statement outfits. “Where it is possible, I have generally attended in drag and arrive via public transportation. I do this because I believe it is important that Pink Dot offers some kind of visibility for the cause. I believe numbers matter and that there is an energy to be built when we come together,” she says.

This year, one of the messages at Pink Dot was a call for the repeal of section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men.

[Read more…]


This photo shows the 10-member Malaysian band, Salammusik. Photo courtesy of Salammusik, via The ASEAN Post


ASEAN in View: Salammusik
The ASEAN Post

Malaysian band, Salammusik is made up of 10 mainstays; Ashraaf Salam A. Azlan a.k.a. Acap (lead vocals), Dyana Shamsuddin and Yaya Naqia (vocals), AhmadBulya Abdillah J a.k.a. Bulya (Maschine, vocals, and guitar), Hibri Arsad (keyboard), Mohd Irhas a.k.a. Payung (trumpets), Jazmi Jamaluddin and Aabid Aafiat (saxophone), Kristopher Chong (bass), and Kevin Theng (drums).

Salammusik was established in 2006 and won its first major award at Malaysia’s Music Industry Awards (‘Anugerah Industri Muzik-17’ or AIM 17) in 2010, a year before it released its first album ‘Salam Musik’. The band have performed at many events and music festivals around the world including the Samosir Music International Festival 2019, Zwarte Cross Festival in Holland and Rock of the World in Malaysia.

13 years on – albeit with changes in group members and musical direction in-between – the band is still going strong and recently released its third album, ‘Riwayat’. The new album comes in a beautifully crafted hardcover book, with music that fuses classical Malay musical elements with contemporary sounds.

The ASEAN Post managed to catch up with three of its band members: Acap, Payung and songwriter, Muhammad Jabir ‘Jay Tan’ Atan, to talk about their musical influences and how ASEAN countries have a lot in common despite the obvious differences.

[Read more…]



A scene from Vietnamese film ‘Rom’. Photo via Tuoi Tre News


Busan Film Festival winner ‘Rom’ fined in Vietnam for licensing violation
Tuoi Tre News, Vietnam

Vietnamese drama film ‘Rom,’ which was honored with the top award at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) last week, has been slapped with a heavy administrative penalty for joining the fest without first acquiring a screening license at home.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Monday imposed a VND40 million (US$1,720) administrative fine on Hoan Khue Film Production JSC (HKFilm) – the production company behind ‘Rom.’

The culture ministry also gave the company ten days to destroy the film copy it sent to BIFF, or authorities will coercively enact “spoliation of the evidence.”

[Read more…]


“I was able to end my career dancing Aurora on my 50th birthday,” Lisa gushes. “I continued dancing until I turned 52.” Photo via PhilStar


Lisa Macuja-Elizalde: ‘We may have lost our theater in the fire, but the show must go on’
PhilStar Global

Just a few days after a fire burned down Star City, including Aliw Theater, home of Ballet Manila, prima ballerina Lisa Macuja, the graceful White Swan of Swan Lake, morphs into a defiant phoenix as she declares, “We may have lost our home, we may have lost our theater, we may have lost everything in the fire, but our love for dance burns forever bright. We will rise from the ashes.”

Yes, Ballet Manila’s much-awaited 24th season production of Giselle will go on as scheduled on Thursday, Oct. 17, 8 p.m. at a new venue, the CCP Main Theater (Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo).

Lisa simply can’t forget the outpouring of support that came from people in the industry. “CCP offered us their main theater while Ballet Philippines donated the use of their backdrops because ours were destroyed in the fire,” she relates. “Thankfully, our Giselle costumes are all intact because they were all stored in the Ballet Manila headquarters.”

[Read more…]


Photo via Khmer Times


Art for all at Phsar Art 2019
Khmer Times, Cambodia

PHNOM Penh’s art scene is thriving, as evident in the number of events popping up throughout the city, especially in recent years. However, to many, arts can only be admired, not owned. The average cost of fine art is typically too expensive for casual aficionados to invest in.

Artists Lolli Park and Syahrulfikri Razin Salleh look to solving this problem with Phsar Art 2019, a curated art market designed to bridge the gap and bring art into the homes of everyday people.

“We want to create a unique event. While we respect the viewing and showcasing of art in a designated gallery, that is just not how we want to do it.

“We want to make art affordable and accessible to others. That is also why we have imposed a certain price limit to all artists involved in this year’s Phsar Art,” Mr Syahrulfikri, fondly known as Ajin, told Good Times2.

[Read more…]


Damage Joy. Photo courtesy of B-Floor Theatre


Clowning around at B-Floor
Bangkok Post

Damage Joy will kick off the “Bangkok International Performing Arts Meeting (Bipam 2019)”, which runs from tomorrow until Sunday.

Fun and often hilarious but nevertheless raising serious questions about violence, the one-hour production by B-Floor Theatre (Thailand) will take the audience into a dark circus world where four clowns hurt each other and destroy things for their entertainment.

In this participatory theatre experience, the audience are given flags to wave if they want the action to stop. Performers will only stop when everyone waves their flags at the same time.

The production is directed by Nana Dakin, a core member of B-Floor Theatre who received a master’s degree in directing from Columbia University in New York and is the first ever Thai director of a show at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

[Read more…]


Mogan’s ‘Skeletons Of Empire’ (2019) documentary photography project is about rubber, colonialism and identity in Malaysia. Photo: Mogan Selvakannu


Contemporary exhibit ‘Banana Leaf’ pushes boundaries for Malaysian Indian arts
Star 2, Malaysia

An art exhibition in Kuala Lumpur is celebrating Deepavali in a very different way.

The Banana Leaf: A Celebration Of Malaysian Indian Arts & Culture (Banana Leaf) exhibition, now showing at the GMBB mall in Kuala Lumpur, features more than 20 Malaysian Indian artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers and performance makers. This show also includes works by Goodkids Malaysia and the children of the community-based Sivananda Ashram in Batu Caves, Selangor.

“I have to say the idea (of this exhibition) began as I was diving more into the significance of Indian culture – and I was tired of staying on the surface. Surely, we can have more depth,” says Thavarupani Subramaniam, or Ruby (as she is fondly called), the event organiser and curator.

Banana Leaf, arguably, goes beyond the festive stereotypes and usual cultural imagery. No oil lamps in sight.

[Read more…]


Artist U Ko Ko Gyi poses for the Myanmar Times. Shin Moe Myint/The Myanmar Times
Meet U Ko Ko Gyi, the grandfather of Mandalay’s modern art
Myanmar Times

U Ko Ko Gyi is one of the very few artists in Myanmar with a PhD in Psychology, which he received while studying in Hungary during the late 1950s. When he returned to Myanmar he became a psychology professor at Mandalay University, where he taught undergraduate students from 1960 to 1970.

“Humans are not birds so they can’t fly. They’re also not fishes, so they can’t swim very far in the ocean. But humans can float, in a metaphorical sense. We have amazing minds, so that’s what I try to capture in my paintings – our floating through the cosmos,” U Ko Ko Gyi said.

Inspired by abstract masters Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, U Ko Ko Gyi combines vibrant colours with thick layers of paint.

“Jakson Pollock made paintings by splashing paint onto the canvas with quick and violent arm movements. I don’t move my body because I ‘m 83 years old. Instead, I focus on crude colours in my compositions,” he said.

[Read more…]


Screen shot of video of Runaway (2019) by Subhas and Dnl. Photo via kopimotion.
“Runaway” (2019): Penat, Yearning and Loss in Black and White

As of writing, Singapore has been mired in a debate about what it means to be a patriotic citizen. In a society where dissent is eyed with suspicion and activists and critics are branded disloyal troublemakers, there seems to be little breathing room for anyone who speaks up about shortcomings in Singapore’s system.

Bristling under the weight of a cultural misconception that criticism and constructive care are mutually separate concepts, Singapore’s media artists find themselves caught within an interesting issue of expression: how can I use my art to raise awareness of gaps in our society without people thinking I’m just a troublemaker? After all, Singapore doesn’t appear ready for the incendiary approach; we’ve previously written about Preetipls and how she uses humour as a weapon, and how her protest against racial prejudice became seen in itself as an attack on racial harmony. In a media landscape where rage borne of disappointment is perceived as ingratitude, one must innovate to express the former without being called the latter.

Yet, when faced against the immutable behemoth that is Singapore and its desire to believe in a utopian social fantasy that doesn’t actually exist, Singaporeans who think that we still have work to do find themselves working against the friction of speaking to a society that insists on the truth of its fiction. As a result, we push ourselves into feeling penat – a fatigue that stems from a desire to say and do more, while coping with the bitter recognition that nothing will ever change.

[Read more…]


ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar is compiled every week. All sources and credit belong to the original publishers and writers. Click here for past editions of Southeast Asia Radar.

About the author(s)

Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of ArtsEquator.com, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.

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